This led to a conversation that included an apology from me and forgiveness from my friend, but also some discussion about how we tend to deal with unrealized expectations.
Have you ever had a friend fail to recognize your birthday, a co-worker fail to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, or a spouse forget your anniversary? It’s natural to expect those who care about us to remember and recognize these significant moments in our life. And when they forget, it often leaves us feeling hurt and disappointed.
But at times, our disappointment is manifested in passive aggressive expressions of anger, giving people the cold shoulder or avoiding them all together.
As my friend and I were reflecting on why we sometimes respond this way, we came to realize that it’s easier to express anger than it is to express being hurt.
Expressing hurt is risky because it requires vulnerability and transparency. It means we have to go to the one who hurt us and risk even further rejection. They may dismiss our feelings, not listen nor seek to understand. Also in expressing hurt we are admitting weakness, both to ourselves and others. We are essentially saying we aren’t indestructible.
Therefore, in an effort to self-protect, instead of expressing hurt, we express anger. We put up our guard and defenses. We wall ourselves off, get angry and hurt back. But really the anger is often just a mask for our hurt.
The more we react this way we learn a patterned response of self-protective anger rather than transparent vulnerability. The end result of anger instead of vulnerability is greater dysfunction in our relationships and hinderance of reconciliation.
So when we find that our expectations and desires aren’t met, whether they are realistic or unrealistic, and anger begins to surface, rather than giving into to it perhaps the first step is to pull back and ask the question. “Am I really angry or am I hurt?”
Vulnerability (even just with yourself) takes courage, anger doesn’t, and it’s the first step in building a bridge to true restoration.
Have you seen this dynamic play out in your relationships? If so where?